17 May, 2022


Victories Grasped And Un-Grasped

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

When there’s fighting, when there are bombs exploding and there’s expectation of explosion, when there’s death and displacement, there’s an oft articulated wish: the end of fighting.  When a nation has been gripped by the clash of arms for close to three decades there are costs that people bear, individually and collectively, costs too numerous to enumerate here.  There are things that war taken which war-end does not return.

The end of war means different things to different people.  Those who count themselves among the ‘winners’ will naturally celebrate, the joy overriding the inevitable losses.  Those who believe they lost, lament, quietly for the most part.  Whichever camp one belongs to, there’s common relief on one matter: the end of gunfire and bomb explosion.

Time passes and those with a political bent re-assess strength and subsequent to a consideration of evolved circumstances re-invent themselves and redesign strategy.  As the years go by end-moment, when revisited, is viewed with new eyes with gaze that is invariably colored as much by event-memory as by the political ‘imperatives’ of the day.  And so we have political commentators impressing their political preferences or rather the ‘prerogatives’ defined by their ideological bent on  reading this moment, that is the fifth anniversary of what is officially called ‘Victory Day’.

By the time things came to an end on May 18, 2009 in the environs of the Nandikadal Lagoon, a nation that had lost so much over three decades recovered an essential ingredient for reimagining a different future. Hope.  Naturally, what was hoped for depended on perceptions of ‘moment’, extrapolations thereto and preferred outcomes, short term and long-term.  This is apparent when reading ‘readings’ of Victory Day 2014.

Naturally, those whose preferred outcomes with respect to the conflict did not materialize back in 2009 are disappointed that ‘post-war’ developments did not deliver their fantasies.  It is almost as though these ‘analysts’ believed that the political ‘coming together’ which resulted in a particular reading of the LTTE and thereafter chose a particular course of action would disband itself, abandon political project and let the ‘losers’ design the post-war political tomorrow.  Understandably, these commentators were either ‘neutral’ about the LTTE, behind-the-scenes supporters of the LTTE or else objectors to the LTTE but not to the LTTE’s project, albeit in a this-side-of-Eelam formulation.  They were and remain a tiny minority.

Without doubt, post-2005 politics in Sri Lanka was about defeating the LTTE militarily.  If those forces that backed the stand taken by President Mahinda Rajapaksa were asked to state ideological position, the vast majority would have stated, ‘for the preservation of the unitary state’.  They would not fiddle around with vague and patently non-political terms such as ‘united’ because vagueness and ambiguity (e.g. one can theoretically have unity in either a federal or unitary set up) can only mislead.  To ask, therefore, for any ‘solution’ that subverts ‘unitary’ at this point would amount to robbing victor of victory confer political defeat on the military victor and be insulting to all the soldiers who fought and died to safeguard the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.  One can attempt this, but there will be costs and that’s certainly not something this regime would dare risk at this point.

The above, however, does not mean that all is well and good in the country.  Still, the Tamil people have not lost the right to air grievances and demand redress.  Indeed, ‘Victory Day’ created space for the articulation of grievance in a more democratic environment.  It also created the conditions for representatives of that community to remove myth and fantasy from grievance and aspiration respectively.  This has not happened and that’s unfortunate.  The space still exists, though. That’s what it most important here.

The government, for its part, has opted to think ‘development’ (as per its definition) as an all-cure.  This is wrong.  Instead of playing cat-n-mouse with the TNA with respect to parliamentary select committees, the government could take the initiative, throw gauntlet as it were.  The following could be said out loud:

“Name your grievances and tell us how devolution ‘works’ for your community considering that the majority live outside the North and East.  The geographical lines on your grievance-maps have no scientific basis and have been drawn by colonial rulers and you swear by them: what’s the logic?  Would you go for a re-demarcation?”

But then again ‘Victory Day’ was not about the LTTE and the Eelam project alone. It was about winning space to bring back issues that the war had ‘shelved’.   Yes, the economy, but not only the economy.  We had a draconian constitution and we are still saddled with it.  If there was hope that the rule of law would be restored, then there’s little to celebrate today.  The same goes for insulating citizen from politician.  The institutional arrangement remains flawed and anti-citizen.  Five years is long enough to fix these things. They remain un-fixed; indeed the flaws are openly celebrated by way of abusing the same.

The guns are silent and we are grateful to all who made it possible, from the President down to the most humble soldier and everyone else who in word and deed contributed in whatever way.  Many other victories are within sight or rather could come into full view, but only if the correct policy paths are chosen.  The Government has kept us waiting.  For a long, long time.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 1

    I am for one who is not sad that LTTE was defeated. In fact I am happy they were defeated. But to say “the war has ended in Sri Lanka” is an understatement. It is an understatement because the war has been shifted from LTTE to the Tamils in the North, Muslims all over Sri Lanka, University Students, villagers who demand polluters to stop, Christians and above all media and newspaper personnel. How can any one say that the war is over in Sri Lanka. If the war is over then why are the members of the Government talking about LTTE all the time.

    Is the war truly over, or has it been shifted to target those who are against the government not because they oppose the government of the day but because they want their rights under the constitution?

    • 0

      Rajapissa and his cronies have gone mad before they all felled.

  • 0


    Sinhala/Buddhist are still fighting the colonial wars, theory .

  • 0

    According to the Government the war was against terrorism; according to Tamil militants it was against the strong-arm tactics of the Governments to suppress the legitimate struggles of Tamils to win political rights.

    Having won that war, a war that was declared by the Government against the method advanced by the militants, Malinda turns it around, to claim that the victory was ‘for the preservation of the unitary state’, a war that was never declared, or fought for.

    Tamils, who undoubtedly watched in silence, the war purported to be against terrorism, are now being told by Malinda that Tamils no more have the right to object to a unitary state.

    Have I heard you correct, Malinda?

    • 0

      The aim of the terrorist campaign was to carve out an “Eelaam” exclusively for the Tamils from the Sri Lankan landmass. Some of these ‘aspirational’ Tamils gave their lives in pursuit of their aspirations, which was to dispossess the Sinhala and the Muslim from both the North and the Eastern province. It is easy enough to understand that the war was in opposition to this. The terrorism was NOT a mindless act, but a well thought out strategy though it had little chance of coming to fruition.

      The Tamils did NOT watch in silence. Some supported the terrorists, but escaped to the West by any means possible to preserve their life and limb, BUT provided funds for the terrorism. The others suffered alongside the Muslims and the Sinhala by staying behind. They probably suffered more than the Sinhala and the Muslims put together, and must take the opportunities now available to better their own lives, working in unison with the others, but eschewing violence, as desired by some within the ‘diaspora’.

  • 0

    Heee heee … I am glad not many read this guy and comment anymore. I am guilty of writing something, but at least someone has to state the obvious for the intelligent writer!

  • 1


    Are you really serious when you say:

    “Still, the Tamil people have not lost the right to air grievances and demand redress. Indeed, ‘Victory Day’ created space for the articulation of grievance in a more democratic environment. It also created the conditions for representatives of that community to remove myth and fantasy from grievance and aspiration respectively. This has not happened and that’s unfortunate. The space still exists, though. That’s what it most important here.”

    What about the continued intimidation of the Northern Provincial and its Chief Minister?

    What about the climate of fear arising from the Big Brother surveillance of the Northern Tamils?

    So-called Development (read lining pockets) is not the panacea to the nations social ills.

    Victory is not only about the Sinhalese Vs Tamils. It is about the basic rights and freedoms of all citizens of this country, which is fast turning out to be a family fiefdom.

    What about the continued assault on freedom of expression/religion of minorities, which are thwarted by ostensible agents of the regime such as BBS?

    What about assaults on Parliamentarians who visit centres of alleged grand theft and corruption?

    And then out of the blues you contradict yourself by saying:

    “If there was hope that the rule of law would be restored, then there’s little to celebrate today. The same goes for insulating citizen from politician. The institutional arrangement remains flawed and anti-citizen. Five years is long enough to fix these things. They remain un-fixed; indeed the flaws are openly celebrated by way of abusing the same.”

    And that Malinda, negates all what you assert about that fictitious ‘democratic space’. You are one confused writer who constantly gets his knickers in a twist..or is there a method in your madness?

    The list of assault on democracy by this regime goes on and on… and lackeys and bootlickers of your ilk are a blot on our nation by your obfuscation passing off as journalism

    And when this corrupt and profligate regime is finally rejected by the people you may have to find a stone to slither under and hide… without a laptop of course!

  • 0

    The whole Sri Lankan state is a colonial construct! Did we not exist for large parts of our history in separate kingdoms before being colonised?

    “…drawn by colonial rulers and you swear by them: what’s the logic? Would you go for a re-demarcation?”

  • 1

    There was no war fought to defeat LTTE. Those who initiated the war is not claiming it has been won. Even the American reports claims that LTTE is well and collecting money to come back; so this is a continuing problem to GOSL. Gota opened his empty had to Chidambaram when he asked for the death of Prabhakaran. So the Indian murder case is still active. That means neither India is agreeing that the LTTE is defeated. What is the celebration going todays making the Mahavamsa Modayas doubly fools.

    The war that was fought in 2008-2009 was to build a new King for Sri Lanka. This are all the unity and and the sacrifices given under the name of unity. Not just the Mahavamsa Modayas are not understanding this, even writers like Malinda can scarcely get this now. Muslims who were the King makers up to now, starting to get a glimpse of. It is not going to be a long wait even Malinda to get it. All what we need do for that time is wait until the next presidential election takes place. It not just the peoples in Lanka, but even the cattle in farms, pets in the houses, birds on the trees, beasts in the jungle, soon going to find out who is on the throne of the Good lord’s year of 2016.

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